A step into the unknown for Suzuki

A step into the unknown for SuzukiFrom Suzuki Press [ 23/04/2008 ].
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In common with all the teams, Suzuki takes a step into the unknown next weekend with the very first World Championship rally in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. However, Suzuki will be hoping to turn this situation in to a positive - as for the first time all year nobody starts at an advantage in terms of experience. Jordan is also the debut World Championship rally in the burgeoning motorsport capital of the Middle East, and the first event to be held largely below sea level!

With a brand new event comes a completely new set of characteristics. The landscape is dominated by desert, meaning that sand gets everywhere and ambient temperatures are likely to be extremely high.

Contrary to many expectations though, the stages are very varied. A number of the roads are made up of soft and sandy gravel that is not entirely dissimilar to that found in Sardinia. Equally, there are some stages that are formed of hard and abrasive gravel that is almost like asphalt.In order to cope with these extremes of surface and temperature, the car set-up has to be flexible and the tyres need to be hard wearing. The same adaptable approach has to be taken by the drivers, and in Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson Suzuki benefits from the perfect blend of youth and experience - who feel equally at home on any surface. The rally gets underway with a ceremonial start on Thursday evening at Emaar South Park, next to the famous Dead Sea. The real action kicks off on Friday morning, with the first of 22 special stages. In total, the rally consists of 359.26 competitive kilometres.

Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister) and n.12 (Andersson):Having proved its ability to score driver or manufacturer points on three out of the four rallies held so far this year, Suzuki will once again be looking for a points-scoring result in the heat and the dust of Jordan. Although a number of teams have carried out some pre-event tests in Europe to prepare for the Jordan Rally, the World Championship rules dictate that nobody is allowed to test in the actual country - so for everybody this rally will be a mission of discovery. In order to cope with the specific demands of the event, there have been a number of evolutions on the SX4 WRC in order to enhance the performance and reliability. The engine control system has been modified to put the accent on reliability, whilst the underbody cladding and sump guard have been reinforced in order to counteract some of the rougher conditions. In view of the extremely high temperatures forecast the cooling system has been overhauled, while damper adjustments have improved the roadholding.

Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson are starting their fifth event in the Suzuki SX4 WRC, but Jordan will be an entirely new experience for them. A small number of drivers completed the recce before it became a World Championship event - but neither Toni nor P-G have ever even set foot in the country before. "It's very hard for me to know what to expect," said the experienced Toni Gardemeister, a veteran of more than 100 World Championship rallies. "In fact, it's very strange to be setting off to compete somewhere and to have no idea what I will find there: I can't remember the last time I was in that situation! I think Jordan will be quite different from anywhere else though, and that can only be good for us as it makes everything more equal. With no problems, we have had the potential to finish in the top six on every rally so far I think. We have to keep working hard and wait for everything to come together. In time, I'm sure that it will." The 27 year-old P-G Andersson has a very similar outlook. "It's going to be a bit of a mystery tour for us, but the same is true for everyone," he said. "I'm going to take the same approach as I have done on all the rallies this year: I'll push hard but nothing crazy and see where that puts us relative to everybody else. So far, our pace has been pretty good. I'm not actually sure which developments have gone on the car since Argentina, but for the moment I think we need to concentrate on reliability so we are sure of making the finish."

After four events of working together, the Paris-based rally team is really beginning to function effectively as a unit. While it hasn't always been easy, there has been regular and steady improvement on the car: a vital key to making progress. However, nobody is underestimating the formidable challenge of the desert - least of all team principal Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, an experienced driver in his own right."The path to success is rarely a smooth one," he said. "It is precisely because the World Rally Championship is so difficult that it holds so much attraction for us. Every time we compete we have to overcome new and bigger challenges, and the Jordan Rally is the latest in a long line of them. With such high temperatures and a wide variety of surfaces, this new event is sure to place a huge strain on the cars and drivers. It is also an event where we have no real idea of what to expect, but like the drivers I am hopeful that we can use this situation to our advantage. Of course, there is still a lot to learn and a long way for us to go, so our realistic objectives need to be modest. Nonetheless, I would like to fix the objective of continuing our rate of improvement and scoring points with both cars if possible. If we can achieve that after such a tough rally, then I will be very happy!"